City Councilman Juan F. Ramos wants to give starving artists a break.

A bill he introduced in City Council yesterday would exempt low-income sculptors, painters and the like from the gross-receipts portion of the city's business tax, which requires business owners to chip in whether or not they've turned a profit.

"We should be doing everything we can to promote and reward our creative class," Ramos said from the Council floor. He added that he was exploring the possibility of a city grant program to encourage the arts.

Ramos' bill was one of several crowd-pleasing pieces of legislation introduced in Council yesterday, as the incumbents prepare to defend themselves in May's primary election.

Councilman Bill Greenlee proposed a bill that would forbid the Water Department from shutting off service for nonpayment on weekends and holidays.

Councilwoman Carol Ann Campbell called for the creation of an independent government "advocate" for children and families to assist parents and grandparents in navigating the school district.

"We have a lot of problems with grandparents raising children who don't comprehend the intricacies of the education system," Campbell said.

The creation of the position would require a charter change and approval by the voters in the form of a ballot question.

Council passed a resolution criticizing the state Gaming Control Board's casino site-selection process - the latest in a long series of Council moves critiquing the gaming board. The resolution was introduced by Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. on behalf of the Pennsylvania Partnership Group, the majority owners in the passed-over Riverwalk Casino proposal.

And Councilman Darrell L. Clarke introduced a host of gun-control bills that closely resembled others he has proposed, with one key difference: The new ones don't make any mention of the need for state authorization of the bills.

The bills that did require state approval have gone nowhere. When asked whether the new bills meant the new strategy was to pass the laws and wait for the state to object, Clarke declined to comment.

"I'm really not at liberty to talk to you about the specifics of the purpose of the introduction today. It is a part of a strategy that will be implemented very soon," Clarke said.